October 01, 2019


Gaining strength and function

Resistance training is the simplest and most effective way to preserve muscle mass and strength — or to regain lost muscle. Older adults often experience remarkable improvement in strength within weeks or months of starting a strength training program.

The squat — an exercise that involves moving up and down between standing and a squatting position to about the level of a chair seat — is one of the best strengthening exercises available. Squatting works all of the major muscle groups of the legs. In addition, the squat is a fundamental movement for many activities of daily living. Picking up a bag of groceries, getting in and out of a car, and using the toilet are just some of the many ways performing squats can improve your ability to live independently and actively.

With your doctor's OK, use the diagrams on the next page to help understand how to start easily with squats, and then gradually increase the effort level as your strength improves. A licensed physical therapist or certified personal trainer can help get you started, as well.

Begin by warming up with five to 10 minutes of gentle exercise, such as brisk walking. Next, select a type of squat that's right for you. It's best to err on the side of doing something that's too easy at first. As you progress over weeks or months, select a type of squat that feels challenging enough so that the last repetition in the set is unhurried and controlled, and you're just barely able to finish with...